On-site cannabis consumption is on its way to two retail dispensaries in Alaska after a landmark vote by the state Marijuana Control Board.

Though there are cities in the US which have issued municipal licenses allowing onsite cannabis consumption, such as West Hollywood in California and Springfield in Illinois, these are the first retail cannabis stores to receive such permits from a state regulator. The Marijuana Control Board (MCB) approved onsite marijuana consumption applications from GoodSinse LLC and Cannabis Corner, both located in Ketchikan Gateway Borough, in a 3-2 vote.

“This is historic in my mind,” said co-owner of GoodSinse, Daniel Peters. “This is a really big milestone…when you’re trying to bring normalcy to something in a new industry.”

The rules for onsite consumption came into effect in Alaska last year following lengthy negotiations between lawmakers and trade representatives. Areas designated for cannabis consumption must be distinct from the rest of the property, either by being outside or separated by a secure door in a room with its own ventilation system. Only products purchased at the retail store may be consumed onsite, and there must be smoke-free areas for employees to monitor consumption.

The co-owner of Cannabis Corner, Ayme Zantua, hopes to open their marijuana lounge as early as this February, and make the most of the cruise ship tourists who visit Ketchikan throughout the summer. This was also a major consideration for the MCB since there would otherwise be nowhere for scores of summer tourists to legally consumer marijuana on their cruise-stop visits to southeast Alaskan cities such as Juneau and Ketchikan.

Now Zantua hopes to be able to offer a welcoming stop for tourists after a long day of sightseeing. She envisions a lounge somewhere between a living room and a coffee bar, with deep couches, a fireplace, billiard table and barside stools.

“We don’t want people to feel like they’re going into a dive at all,” Zantua said.

But she adds that the first priority will be serving the local community and making sure they feel comfortable with what is a new chapter for the town.

“We’re being very strict at first until we get a good feel for everything because all eyes are on us. We want to protect the community as well as have this cool opportunity for people,” she said. “We don’t know how it’s going to go. It’s new for everybody.”

The MCB is due to meet again soon to to discuss possible changes to onsite rules, including the prohibition of vaping and the easing of building requirements for cannabis stores that wish to offer customers the option of consuming edibles but not allow smoking.

The MCB in Alaska is not the only state body in the US to press ahead with onsite cannabis consumption regulations. Colorado state officials are busy crafting regulations to establish “marijuana hospitality spaces,” while Massachusetts is about to start a pilot program permitting onsite cannabis consumption in up to a dozen applicant cities across the state.

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